Armed resistance in Chile (1973–90)
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|Armed resistance in Chile|
|Part of the history of Chile and the Cold War|
Left-wing protesters during street riots 1 May 1984
|Commanders and leaders|
José Toribio Merino
Guillermo Ossandón Cañas
Beginning with the 1973 Chilean coup d'etat an armed resistance movement against the military dictatorship developed until 1990 when democracy was restored. The main armed resistance groups of the period were the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR) and Frente Patriótico Manuel Rodríguez (FPMR), the armed wing of the Communist Party of Chile. These groups had a long-standing rivalry.
Key events during the armed resistance were the attempt to set up a guerrilla in Neltume in 1980–81, the Carrizal Bajo arm smuggling operation in 1986 and the attempted killing of Pinochet the same year. After the return to democracy was initiated in 1990 the bulk of the armed groups demobilized. Splinter groups that redefined targets after the dictatorship fell continued to carry out isolated attacks, kidnappings and robberies until the early 2000s.
The Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR) were benefited under an amnesty under Allende and was allowed to operate openly, encouraging and carrying out illegal expropriations of farms and businesses, and assaulting rightist members of the public and security forces. According to police figures submitted to the Chilean senate, 1,458 farms were occupied illegally between November 1970. In November 1970, Antonia Maechel, owner of the La Tregua estate in the Panguipulli area, took her own life after being raped by leftist militants that had seized her property. On 6 February 1970, carabineer Luis Merino Ferreira was killed in a clash with guerrillas. On 11 August 1970, MIR guerrillas killed carabineer corporal Luis Fuentes Pineda. On 21 September 1970, guerrillas shot and killed a carabineer corporal, Armando Cofré López, during a bank robbery in the suburb of Irarrázabal in Santiago. In April 1971, Juan Millalonco, a member of Christian Democratic Youth, was shot dead in Aysén by socialist militants, and VOP guerrillas in Santiago killed Raúl Méndez at his sweet shop. That same month in the expropriation of land on the part of leftist militants and guerrillas, Rolando Matus is shot dead resisting the takeover of the Carén farm in Pucón, and Jorge Baraona and Domitila Palma died resisting the takeover of their farms in southern Chile. On 25 May 1971, Corporal José Arnaldo Gutiérrez Urrutia was killed by guerrillas of the Organized Vanguard of the People (VOP).
In June 1971, VOP guerrillas killed Edmundo Perez Zujovic, a Christian Democrat and former interior minister. That same month, a guerrilla (Heriberto Salazar) of the VOP walked into a police station with a sub-machinegun and kills or fatally wounds three policemen (Gerardo Romero Infante, Heriberto Mario Marín and Carlos Pérz Bretti) before blowing himself up with dynamite. That same month carabineer corporal Jorge Cartes is killed by MIR guerrillas in the city of Concepción. On 30 August 1972, carabineer corporal Exequiel Aroca Cuevas was killed in the city of Concepción, when socialist militants open fire on the bus he was travelling.
On 27 February 1973, MIR guerrillas attacked the Llanquihue police station, shooting and wounding 10 carabineers. In March 1973, Germán González and Sergio Vergara, both members of the Christian Democrat Party were killed while resisting the takeover of the La Reina estate. On 2 April 1973, MIR guerrillas shot and killed a policeman, Gabriel Rodríguez Alcaíno. In May 1973, Mario Aguilar, a member of the Movimiento Patria y Libertad is gunned down by leftists in downtown Santiago. In June 1973, a farmer and member of the Christian Democrat Party, Jorge Mena, is clubbed to death in Osorno. In July 1973, a farmer, Juan Luis Urrutia, dies resisting the takeover of his estate in Bulnes. And MIR guerrillas kill Manuel Garrido, an employee of Paños Continental. On 29 August 1973, a Mexican militant (Jorge Albino Sosa Gil) working in Chile, shoots and kills Second Lieutenant Héctor Lacrampette Calderón as the young army officer was waiting for a bus in the suburb of Providencia in Santiago. That same month Sergio Aliaga, while driving through a confrontation between striking truckers and leftist militants, was killed after being shot in the throat. And two farmers, José Toribio Núñez and Celsa Fuentes died of horrific burns after being caught in the bomb blast targeting the pipeline between Santiago and Concepción.
After the coup, left-wing organizations tried to set up groups of resistance fighters against the regime. Some of them, known as the GAP (Grupo de Amigos Personales), had previously served as bodyguards of President Allende. Many activists created groups of resistance groups from refugees abroad. The Movimiento Juvenil Lautaro or Lautaro Youth Movement (MJL) was formed in December 1982 and the Communist Party of Chile set up an armed wing, which became in 1983 the FPMR (Frente Patriótico Manuel Rodríguez). The main guerrilla group, known as the MIR (Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria), suffered heavy casualties in the coup's immediate aftermath, and most of its members fled the country. Andreas Pascal Allende, a nephew of President Allende led the MIR from 1974–1976, then made his way to Cuba. Nevertheless, in the first three months of military rule, the Chilean forces recorded 162 military deaths. It is claimed that a total of 756 servicemen and police are reported to have been killed or wounded in clashes with guerrillas in the 1970s.[unreliable source?] Among the killed and disappeared during the military regime were at least 663 Marxist MIR guerrillas. The MIR commander, Andrés Pascal Allende, has admitted that the Marxist guerrillas lost 1,500-2,000 fighters killed or disappeared. Many guerrillas confessed under torture and several hundred other young men and women, sympathetic to the guerrillas, were detained and tortured and often killed. Nearly 700 civilians disappeared in the 1974-1977 period, after being detained by the Chilean military and police. Some 30,000 former conscripts that served between 1973 and 1990, claiming to be suffering from post-traumatic stress, are currently seeking compensation from the Chilean government.
Fewer than 60 individuals died as a direct result of fighting on 11 September although the MIR and GAP continued to fight the following day. In all, 46 of Allende's guard (the GAP, Grupo de Amigos Personales) were killed, some of them in combat with the soldiers that took the Moneda. Allende's Cuban-trained guard would have had about 300 elite commando-trained GAP fighters at the time of the coup, but the use of brute military force, especially the use of Hawker Hunters, may have handicapped many GAP fighters from further action. On the military side, there were 34 deaths: two army sergeants, three army corporals, four army privates, 2 navy lieutenants, 1 navy corporal, 4 naval cadets, 3 navy conscripts and 15 carabineros. Most of the carabineros were killed after two busloads of policemen were heavily engaged by armed socialists in the Pro-Allende shantytown of La Ligua. In Mid-September, the Chilean military junta claimed its troops suffered another 16 dead and 100 injured by gunfire in mop-up operations against Allende supporters, and Pinochet warned, "sadly there are still some armed groups who insist on attacking, which means that the military rules of wartime apply to them."
On 23 October 1973, 23-year-old Army Corporal Benjamín Alfredo Jaramillo Ruz, who was serving with the Cazadores, became the first fatal casualty of the counterinsurgency operations in the mountainous area of Alquihue in Valdivia after being shot by a sniper. The Chilean Army suffered 12 killed in various clashes with MIR guerrillas and GAP fighters in October 1973. On 18 November 1974, guerrillas open fire on an army vehicle, killing Corporal Francisco Cifuentes Espinoza. On 17 November, MIR guerrillas shoot and kill army sergeant Waldo Morales Neal and private Clemente Santibáñez Vargas. On 7 November 1973, guerrillas open fire on an army truck in the suburb of La Florida in Santiago, killing private Agustín Correa Contreras. On 13 November, MIR guerrillas killed army corporal Juan Castro Vega. On 27 November, MIR guerrillas kill army corporal Ramón Madariaga Valdebenito. On 3 December 1973, MIR guerrillas kill two army corporals, Rodolfo Peña Tapia and Luis Collao Salas and a private, Julio Barahona Aranda. On 13 December 1973, guerrillas open fire and kill two army sergeants, Sergio Cañón Lermanda and Pedro Osorio Guerrero. On 15 December 1973, guerrillas shoot and kill army coporal Roberto Barra Martínez in the suburb of La Reina in Santiago. On 26 December 1973, guerrillas open fire on an army jeep, killing private José Luis Huerta Abarca. By the end of the year, the Chilean police would claim to have uncovered a huge arms cache, that included 5,000 HK-33 sub-machineguns and corresponding ammunition numbering in the millions and large quantities of 20-mm anti-tank gun shells.
On February 19, 1975, four captured MIR commanders went on national television to urge their guerrillas to lay down their arms. According to them, the MIR leadership was in ruins: of the 52 commanders of the MIR, nine had been killed, 24 were prisoners, ten were in exile, one had been expelled from the group, and eight were still at large. On 18 November 1975, MIR guerrillas killed a 19-year-old army conscript (Private Hernán Patricio Salinas Calderón). On 24 February 1976, MIR guerrillas in a gunbattle with Chilean secret police, shot and killed a 41-year-old carabinero sergeant (Tulio Pereira Pereira). The Chilean secret police on this occasion were met with a hail of automatic weapons fire, killing a carabinero and a girl. On 28 April 1976, MIR guerrillas shot and killed a 29-year-old carabineros corporal (Bernardo Arturo Alcayaga Cerda) while he was walking home in the Santiago suburb of Pudahuel. On 16 October 1977, MIR guerrillas exploded 10 bombs in Santiago. In 1978 the MIR sought to reestablish a presence in Chile and launched "Operation Return" which involved clandestine entry, recruitment, bombings and bank robberies in Santiago that briefly shook the military regime. In February 1979 MIR guerrillas bombed the US-Chile Cultural Institute in Santiago, causing considerable damage. In 1979, about 40 bombings were blamed on MIR guerrillas.
On 15 July 1980, three guerrillas in blue overalls and yellow hardhats ambushed the car of lieutenant-colonel Roger Vergara Campos, director of the Chilean Army Intelligence School, and killed him and wounded his driver in a barrage of bullets from automatic rifles. On 30 December 1980, MIR guerrillas kill two carabineer corporals, 31-year-old Washington Godoy Palma and 27-year-old Daniel Alberto Leiva González.
In a message sent to Santiago press agencies in February 1981 the MIR claimed to have carried out more than 100 attacks during 1980, among them the bombing of electricity pylons in Santiago and Valparaiso on November 11 which caused widespread blackouts, and bomb attacks on three banks in Santiago on December 30 in which one carabinero was killed and three people wounded. On 19 September 1981, Private Victor Manuel Nahuelpan Silva is killed during counter-insurgency operations in the Neltume area. In November 1981, MIR guerrillas killed three member of the Investigative Police as they stood in front of the home of the chief minister of the presidential staff. In sweeps carried out from June to November 1981, security forces destroyed two MIR bases in the mountains of Neltume, seizing large caches of munitions and killing a number guerrillas. MIR guerrillas retaliated and carried out twenty-six bomb attacks during March and April 1983.
Leftist guerrillas, waiting in a yellow pick-up truck, ambushed on 30 August 1983 the governor of Santiago, retired major-general Carol Urzua Ibáñez as he left his home, killing him and two of his bodyguards (army corporals Carlos Riveros Bequiarelli and José Domingo Aguayo Franco) in a hail of submachine-gun fire. In October and November 1983, MIR guerrillas bombed four US-associated targets. Guerrillas killed two policemen (carabinieri Francisco Javier Pérez Brito and sergeant Manuel Jesús Valenzuela Loyola) on 28 December 1983.
On 31 March 1984, a police bus in downtown Santiago was destroyed with a bomb, killing a carabinero and injuring at least 11. On 29 April 1984, MIR guerrillas exploded 11 bombs, derailing a subway train in Santiago and injuring 22 passengers, including seven children. On 5 September 1984, guerrillas shot and killed 27-year-old army lieutenant Julio Briones Rayo in Copiapó. On 2 November 1984, a bus carrying carabineros was attacked with a grenade during Chile's national cycling championship; four carabineros were killed. On 4 November 1984, five guerrillas riding in a van hurled bombs and fired automatic weapons at a suburban Santiago police station, killing two carabineros and wounded three more. On 7 December 1984, urban guerrillas killed a policeman and bombed a subway station, wounding 6 people. On 25 March 1985, MIR guerrillas planted a bomb in Hotel Araucano in Concepcion that killed marine sergeant René Osvaldo Lara Arriagada and army sergeant Alejandro del Carmen Avendaño Sánchez, who were attempting to defuse the bomb. On 6 December 1985, a carabinero was shot to death by four guerrillas who opened fire on him with submachine-guns as he walked home. That same month, 15 city buses were destroyed with gasoline bombs and urban guerrillas hurled a bomb under an incoming train in Santiago, before making good their escape after a shootout with policemen. The total number of documented terrorist actions during 1984 and 1985 was 866.
On 5 February 1986, a car bomb destroyed a bus filled with riot police, mutilating 16 policemen. One carabinero later died of his wounds. The MIR claimed responsibility for the bombing. On 17 February 1986, two trains crashed in an area of Limache that had been reduced to one track after guerrillas had destroyed a nearby bridge, killing 100 and wounding 500 civilians. On 26 February 1986, unidentified guerrillas or their sympathizers shoot and kill carabineer Lieutenant Alfonso Mauricio Rivera López. In May 1986 MIR guerrillas threw sulphuric acid into a bus, seriously injuring six people, including two children. On 25 July 1986, a bomb planted in a trash can exploded at a crowded bus stop a few yards from the presidential palace, wounding at least 24 people. On 6 August 1986, security forces discovered 80 tons of weapons at the tiny fishing harbor of Carrizal Bajo, smuggled into the country by the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front (FPMR). The shipment of Carrizal Bajo included C-4 plastic explosives, 123 RPG-7 and 180 M72 LAW rocket launchers as well as 3,383 M-16 rifles. On 7 September 1986, about 30 FPMR guerrillas attempted to kill Pinochet. Pinochet narrowly escaped the assassination attempt on his motorcade, but five army corporals were killed and eleven soldiers and carabineros were wounded in the ambush. This failed operation led to an internal crisis of the group, many of its leading members being arrested by the security forces. In October 1986, MIR guerrillas attacked a police station in Limache with gunfire, seriously wounding five policemen. One carabinero later died of his wounds. On 5 November 1986, guerrillas threw an incendiary bomb into a bus in Viña del Mar, seriously injuring three women (Rosa Rivera Fierro, Sonia Ramírez Salinas and Marta Sepúlveda Contreras). Rosa Rivera Fierro, later died of her wounds. On 28 November 1986, MIR guerrillas after having been stopped by a police vehicles, shot and killed 31-year-old carabinero Lieutenant Jaime Luis Sáenz Neira.
On 11 September 1987, a police vehicle was completely destroyed in a bomb attack in Santiago, killing two carabineros. On 20 January 1988, a bomb planted by MIR guerrillas in the Capredena Medical Center in Valparaiso killed a 65-year-old female pensioner (Berta Rosa Pardo Muñoz) and wounded 15 other women. On January 26, MIR guerrillas planted a bomb in a house in La Cisterna that killed 42-year-old Major Julio Eladio Benimeli Ruz, commander of the carabineros special operations group. In June 1988, MIR guerrillas conducted a series of bombings in Santiago, at various banks. FPMR guerrillas that month killed 43-year-old Lieutenant-Colonel Miguel Eduardo Rojas Lobos of the Chilean Army, after he had parked his car in the Santiago suburb of San Joaquín. On 10 July 1989, 26-year-old carabineros corporal Patricio Rubén Canihuante Astudillo was shot in the head at point-blank range as he guarded a building in Viña del Mar. In December 1989, Canadian police reported that 30 Brazilian business executives had been targeted for abduction by MIR guerrillas that included two Canadians, Christine Lamont and David Spencer who had joined the movement after meeting two Chilean, Sergeo Olivares and Martin Urtubia, who came to Canada in 1978.
The election of a civilian government in Chile did not end guerrilla activities. Within a few months after President Patricio Aylwin's accession to power, leftist militants showed that they remained committed to armed struggle and were responsible for a number of terrorist incidents. On May 10, 1990, two guerrillas wearing school uniforms assassinated carabineros Colonel Luis Fontaine, a former head of the antiterrorist department of the carabineros, Chile's national police force. Two policemen were killed on August 10, 1990, in a working-class Santiago suburb and two more were injured in an attack on a bus. On November 14, 1990, gendarmes transferred Marco Ariel Antonioletti, a senior MJL leader from jail to hospital for treatment. MJL guerrillas fought their way into the Sótero del Río Hospital but were forced to withdraw, after having killed four gendarmes and one carabinero. Chile's Investigations Police later shot Antonioletti in the forehead, killing him. On January 24, 1991, MJL guerrillas ambushed and killed two carabineros. On February 28, 1991, a carabinero policeman died in a shoot-out in Santiago with leftist guerrillas of the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front. On April 1, FPMR guerrillas assassinated right-wing senator Jaime Guzman, killing him as he left a university campus in Santiago. On September 9 three guerrillas kidnapped Cristian Edwards, whose family run El Mercurio newspaper. After his family paid $1 million in ransom, the FPMR freed him. On 22 January 1992, two FPMR guerrillas (Fabián López Luque and Alex Muñoz Hoffman)were killed trying to rob a Prosegur cash delivery armoured van at the Pontifical Catholic University in Santiago. On September 11, 1998, three police stations—La Pincoya, La Granja and La Victoria—were attacked with firearms, incendiary bombs and rocks and 36 were carabineros were wounded in violence related to the 25th anniversary commemorations of the military coup. In 2006, on the 33rd anniversary of the September 11, 1973, military coup, 79 carabineros were wounded in clashes with rioters. In September 2007, a carabinero policeman was killed after being shot in the face and around 40 were wounded during clashes with protesters marking the 34th anniversary of the military coup. The following month, MJL guerrillas killed carabineer Luis Moyano Farías during the robbery of Banco Security in Santiago. In clashes with protesters commemorating the 35th anniversary of the military coup, 29 carabineros were wounded in September 2008. In September 2009, 19 Carabineros were wounded in clashes with protestors marking the 36th anniversary of the coup. The murders, lootings, thefts and other forms of appropriation that took place in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake in Chile, were in part promoted and legitimated by the MIR movement.
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